Social & Political Sciences

Social & Political Sciences Experts

Heather A. O’connell

Louisiana State University
United States of America


Heather A. O’Connell joined LSU after completing a postdoctoral fellowship at the Kinder Institute for Urban Research at Rice University in Houston, TX. She received her PhD from the Sociology program at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. In her research she aims to reveal the processes generating interlocking black-white inequalities in the United States (e.g., disparate outcomes within economic, educational, and other social spheres). At the core of her research is the role of place, its accompanying structural features, and how they relate to ideas of race and subsequent inequalities. The longest running focus in her research is related to the idea of a contemporary legacy of slavery, a social remnant of the racial hierarchy associated with slavery that continues to be reflected in the spatial patterns of black-white inequality that we see today. Her most recent project on this topic examines the connections among the legacy of slavery, collective memory, and Confederate monuments. Future projects will build on the work of Historians to develop a clearer understanding of where and why Confederate monuments were built.

Research Interest

Her attention on the role of place in her research has also led her to incorporate migration and spatially-informed methods into her work. For example, her dissertation research addresses the extent to which selective migration – rather than the local processes suggested to generate additional disadvantage – explains the higher levels of black-white inequality that are often found in places where a higher percentage of the population identifies as black. She finds that selective migration is not the primary explanation. Future research will examine other aspects of migration, including recent increases in the Hispanic population in the US South, and will continue to use and develop the spatial methods needed to understand how social processes unfold within and across place.


  • Heather A. O’Connell, Lester King, and Jenifer L. Bratter. 2016. “The Location of Resources in a Diverse City: Supermarkets and Emerging Racial Hierarchies.” Race and Social Problems 8(4): 281-295.

  • Adam Slez, Heather A. O’Connell, and Katherine J. Curtis. 2017. “A Note on the Identification of Common Geographies.” Sociological Methods & Research 46(2): 288-299.

  • Katherine J. Curtis and Heather A. O’Connell (equal authorship). “Historical Racial Contexts and Contemporary Spatial Differences in Racial Inequality.” Forthcoming at Spatial Demography.

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